Ben Smith

Ben SmithDr. Ben Smith uses remote sensing data to monitor changes in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. He is particularly interested in understanding how changes in the height and speed of the surface of the glaciers there can show us how conditions at the ice sheet bed are changing, and how changes in the oceans and atmosphere can drive the speed and volume of the ice sheets.

Dr. Smith has worked on a variety of projects using data from NSF- and NASA-funded programs Since 2003 he has been using laser altimetry data from NASA’s ICESat mission to measure surface elevation changes both ice sheets. This work led to his discovery of over 120 subglacial lakes in Antarctica that filled or drained between 2003 and 2008. Since then, he has worked to investigate whether these lakes are important in short- or long-term changes in the ice sheet’s mass balance. Since 2005 he has worked with PSC PI Dr. Ian Joughin to measure ice sheet velocities using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and to provide ice velocity measurements to the scientific community under a grant funded by NASA’s MEASURES program. He is also analyzing both altimetry and surface velocity data to determine the causes of recent large mass-balance variations in Greenland. Dr. Smith is a member of the ICESat-II Science Definition Team, helping to provide information from the scientific community to the engineers designing a laser altimetry satellite that will launch in 2015. He is also a member of the IceBridge science team, helping design airborne surveys of glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica.


The Polar Science Center is a group of dedicated investigators conducting interdisciplinary research on the oceanography, climatology, meteorology, biology and ecology of the ice-covered regions on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system. Learn more »